Home' Baird Maritime : November 2011 Contents For many of us, news that the in-laws are about to visit makes
our eyes roll. Not in fear or trepidation mind you, probably just
that you had something better in mind, like watching grass
grow, or paint dry.
News that the Tanzanian ferry 'Spice Islander' sank on
September 10 was another eye-rolling event for those of us in the
marine industry. The 1967-built vessel was on a voyage from
Zanzibar to Pemba Island and reports of deaths varied between 200
and 400, with no-one really sure of the exact numbers. The vessel
was previously the Greek Ro-Pax ferry 'Apostolos P', sailing for
Hellenic Lines until 2007.
Most ferry tragedies occur in the Third World, and most are
caused by overloading. Whilst there may be some "tut tutting" or
"harumphing" from the cheap seats in the developed nations at
these regular tragic occurrences, we should be thinking about our
"duty of care" to prevent these events happening.
Most ferry owners are delighted to sell an old vessel, their
delight shared by the broker doing the deal, and they are not
remotely interested in having their glee spoiled by a "duty of
care" clause. However, the facts are the facts, and the simple
truth is that overloading is the prime cause of vessels capsizing
Is there something we can do? Of course there is!
We can make sure the vessel runs out of deck space before it
runs out of stability, not the other way around. All vessels have to
comply with stability and damaged stability criteria, which
essentially means it has a certain reserve of stability for when
things go wrong. Even the combination of forces such as wind
and rudder heeling and passenger-crowding moments is taken
When a monohull ferry is sold to a Third World country, the
stability book calculations should be reworked for 100 percent
overloading of passenger spaces, because in truth that will be a
likely scenario. Almost certainly the vessel will not comply with
the stability criteria for this condition.
The only way it could comply would be by adding ballast or
removing all or part of the uppermost deck of the superstructure.
Adding ballast would reduce the payload and is subject to a bit of
diligence by the crew, which may not be forthcoming in
developing nations. Therefore, removal of the superstructure is a
more definitive way of ensuring that stability is safeguarded. This
procedure lowers, and therefore improves, the ship's centre of
gravity, lowers the windage (improving the wind heeling moment)
and eliminates space for the crowds to go (lowering the upper-deck
loads and passenger moments). It is also quite inexpensive.
Why then do the IMO and the EU, the fountains of
marine regulatory legislation, not focus on these tragedies and
Well, most of us know they are so focused on their policy of
appeasing the questionable environmental hysteria that they have
prioritised delusional emissions standards and counter-productive
formula-based standards for ships, over their prime function of
safety at sea.
Where on earth did the nonsensical formula for the HSC code
come from? This piece of gibberish has had every practising naval
architect in the world shaking his or head in bewilderment.
What about the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), an IMO
environmental benchmarking idea from three years ago that has
grown like a cancer and now adds to the threat of life in industry
sectors. The EEDI formula thrown on the table for industry to
choke on probably came from the same source as the HSC formula,
some maths nerds on day-release from an institution that needs
Why are we paying these civil servants to plague and burden
the marine industry with nonsense and huge costs when the same
civil servants should be focusing their attention on preventing loss
of life at sea? Are they so fearful of losing their jobs in this time of
financial pressure that they are spending endless hours generating
dubious drivel to justify their existence? Whatever the case, they
should be downsized immediately and the remaining ones forced
to get out into the real world more often.
Their emissions rules and the resultant costs, according to my
European colleagues, are successfully forcing cargoes from ships to
road, which has a far greater negative impact on the environment.
Why is it that they are so focussed on introducing new
regulations that they cannot eliminate obsolete ones? Gross
tonnage is another appalling example where the IMO missed or
ignored the pleadings of the late Ernst Vossnack, the renowned
Dutch naval architect, who proved conclusively that the pursuit of
lower GRT and NRT was causing capsizes and loss of lives at sea.
In discussions with Asian and Pacific maritime leaders in the
last few months, the overwhelming consensus is that the IMO and
the EU both need a serious overhaul, or possibly a relocation of the
IMO to a more financially stable area. We have too many rules
already, and too many regulators based in Europe that are
Euro-centric, ignorant of the rest of the world's marine industry.
They are paid to prioritise regulatory issues where lives are being
lost, and they cannot seem to grasp that.
Meanwhile, we have a duty of care to focus on safety of life at
sea. Once we can address this, and only when we do, we can move
on to improving the environmental issues of ships and shipping,
which still remains well down the list of pollution emitters.
Duty of care?
With STUART BALLANTYNE
THE THOUGHTS OF A
November 2011 BAIRD MARITIME
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